Following the arrest of the nephew of a Knights Templar leader suspected of organ trafficking, officials in Mexico have reported the Michoacan based criminal organization has diversified into a crime more commonly associated with small, specialized networks.
Police in the state of Michoacan have arrested Manuel Plancarte Gaspar -- the nephew of Knights Templar leader Enrique "Kike" Plancarte -- as part of an investigation into the kidnapping of children to steal their organs, reported the Associated Press.
Carlos Castellanos Becerra, Michoacan's public safety secretary, said the Knights Templar had been involved in organ trafficking for several years, and generally targeted minors, who they kidnapped and took to houses with medical equipment to remove their organs. However, he gave no further details on the cases.
Jose Manuel Mireles, a leader of the Michoacan vigilantes that are fighting the Knights, told Radio MVS area residents had become aware of the criminal group's involvement in organ trafficking after several children were rescued from a refrigerated truck.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Knights Templar have increasingly diversified their criminal portfolio, engaging in a range of illicit activities. Authorities now say illegal mining, logging, and extortion are more important sources of income for the group than drug trafficking. Extortion alone is estimated to earn the group $800,000 to $1.4 million per week.
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If confirmed, the group's participation in harvesting and trafficking organs would be a sign this diversification has extended beyond what was previously thought. However, there is not yet enough evidence to verify the claims the Knights are involved in a trade that requires high levels of medical expertise and global contacts, which would be difficult for the Knights to obtain.
Organ trafficking is not generally linked to major organized crime groups, but is run by small specialized networks that recruit donors from poor and marginalized communities.
Costa Rica, in particular, has become a major source of organs, as evidenced by the recent testimony of a Costa Rican couple detained in Israel in 2013 who had traveled there to sell their kidneys. According to the couple's statement, they were offered $20,000 each for their left kidneys -- which can later sell for $150,000 on the black market -- during negotiations with a Costa Rican doctor, who was later arrested.